A two hour flight from hot sunny Bangkok to a cold chilly wind and raindrops in Ha Long City gives me some aches and pains because of the weather alone. Good thing, I have my best coat to keep me toasty and warm and simply dance in the rain (metaphorically) with the challenges especially when it goes on for 3 days!
Even the flu and rain can’t stop me from roaming around this charming city. I’m glad I did because I was able to see the reflection of the Ha Long mirror even if the sun didn’t kiss my skin.
So, I turned on my own human GPS to find happy places and I found these five sunny spots for you to check out when you drop in on Ha Long City.
Ha Long cruise
When I arrived in my budget hotel in the middle of the city, I asked the hotel tour desk what are the differences between the various cruises in Ha Long Bay. As expected, the higher you pay, the higher service you get. But of course, I’m on a tight budget so it’s ideal to consider my personal requirements and the things that I just wanted to see. So, I ended up booked the Ha Long tour that costs me around 10 USD, including the cave tour and transfers. Good deal!
Beyond everything, I was amazed how spectacular the UNESCO World Heritage Site attract humans from different countries all of the over world no matter which boat you’re on or your exploring on your own. It’s just as interesting how the distinctive zebra striped appearance of the limestone.
Ha Long Bay Cave
One of the highlights of the cruise is going through along the bay and visiting inside the caves with thousands of other tourists and I was in the group where we visited the Thien Cung Grotto, which is known as “Heavenly Cave”. The viewing deck over the gorge of the cave caught me off guard aside from the dramatic lights and icicle shaped formation that hangs from the ceiling of a cave but Nguom Ngao Cave in Cao Bang City, nestled in the northern most of Vietnam is still the most gorgeous cave I have visited so far.
Quang Ninh Museum and Library
Limited though my time is, I still managed to visit this simple yet elegant library and museum block, which is located in Cot 3 Area, Hong Hai Ward, Ha Long City. I just simply love how the Spanish architect laid out the galleries on each floor and how they organised the artefacts from the whale skeleton hanging on the ceiling down to the small pieces of newspaper clips on display. I simply fall in love with this kind of thing.
You should not miss this if you’re a history buff because you will find interesting facts about mining, especially the coal industry which Quang Ninh Province is known for. And what I like the most is I was able to see and experience how they work on site from holding the old and heavy corded telephones to pushing the cart that miners used back in the days – not to mention it was my first time! Life filled with firsts brings happiness!
Old Town Cafe
As might be expected, I was hungry and wanted to eat something different and ended up by the corner coffee shop near to the museum, which is kinda random, though. But I’m happy I did because I really missed the Vietnamese coffee taste and just simply linger for few hours before checking out and heading to the next city.
I ordered the black coffee with a layer of sweetened condensed and added a half-full hot water to cut the intensity of the strong and bitterness of the coffee (please note – this will come sweet if you do the same thing I did, what works for me, it may not work for you). Whether you like plain black coffee or not, just get what you want because you’ll be the one enjoying it at the end.
Ha Long Night Market
This city is not nearly as big as Hanoi but the Vincom Center is a newly erected shopping mall in this area. If you’re not willing to spend much money then, you’d be better off hitting the markets if you want to buy souvenirs for family and friends. Ultimately, shopping is not about malls with branded items as an old adage goes “It’s the thought that counts”.
Halong Night Market is one of the markets that you should check on your bucket list. The market is a crowd of more than a hundred stalls which sell a variety of products, such as handicrafts, handmade accessories, clothes, bags and even “au giay” on the basement. While on the second floor, you can grab some Vietnamese coffee and special delicacies not to mention that the vendors here are friendly can speak English quite well, so you should not worry how to haggle down and pose for a while since they can have a nice chat with them about this charming city. Halong Night Market opens 7 days a week, from 6 until 10pm.
Always remember this quote, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Not only sunshine can bring you happiness.